Skip to main content

Southern African hub

Regional

This hub is part of the Centre for Innovation in Parliament.

The regional hubs promote the effective use of technology in parliaments by sharing and consolidating information on past, ongoing and future ICT initiatives at regional level, and through the CIP secretariat at global level. Membership: any parliament within the Southern African region.

Host parliament:
5 hub updates

Southern Africa and Hispanophone hubs hold virtual meetings with Member Parliaments

Southern African hub
Hispanophone hub

The CIP Southern Africa and Hispanophone hubs each held virtual Zoom meetings with Member Parliaments[1] on 12 May and 19 June respectively. The meetings were attended by IT directors and senior IT staff and aimed at facilitating knowledge exchange between the parliaments of the respective regions and, in particular, concerning ongoing or planned ICT projects for remote working / meeting / voting solutions in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and its disruption of parliamentary activity. The Southern Africa meeting was organized by the hub host – the National Assembly of Zambia; it also saw the participation of the Secretary General of the SADC Parliamentary Forum Ms. Boemo Sekgoma. The Hispanophone hub meeting was organized by the Chamber of Deputies of Chile as hub host, with support from the IPU and the National Democratic Institute (NDI).

Zoom

The meetings each featured a global overview presentation by the IPU Centre for Innovation in Parliament based on the ongoing survey which forms part of the IPU campaign Parliaments in a time of pandemic; followed by brief updates from the hub parliaments which provided more details on: the current status of parliamentary activity, including plenary and committee meetings; whether remote working and meeting solutions were deployed; how remote voting was handled; and how the legal framework for parliaments facilitated the above. The meetings were concluded with rich Q&A segments.

Some of the highlights of these meetings include:

  1. The disruption brings a tremendous opportunity to innovate. Parliamentary leaders are more than ever engaged in discussing innovation and are increasing their familiarity with digital issues.
  2. Most parliaments are faced with the same challenge of maintaining parliamentary business and implementing solutions for remote working and meeting. Many parliament IT teams are in one or more of the following stages of platform evaluation, procurement, testing and developing operating procedures; integrating of additional parliamentary meeting functionality (e.g. attendance, voting, speaking order, time management); and reviewing /amending standing orders.
  3. There are many common solutions being trialed and implemented. Remote working platforms like MS Teams and Zoom are top choice, but others such as Cisco WebEx, Jitsi are also being trialed. 
  4. Inclusiveness is high on the agenda: in both regions there are MPs that need to connect from remote areas where internet connectivity is suboptimal. Parliaments are trying to work around this by offering better voice and data packages. Others are resorting to the hybrid model where the lesser connected MPs do come to parliament and sit in smaller distributed rooms to respect social distancing, and others participate in meetings from their homes (e.g. in capital and bigger cities). The meetings are however conducted via videoconferencing. 
  5. There are lessons learned emerging from rolling out the new innovations to MPs. While the remote meeting solutions are relatively user friendly for MPs, they still require lots of technical support in other areas such as how to connect to parliamentary systems or how to use devices. Other “new issues” that are emerging include how to manage MPs virtual image and reputation (that is, look good during virtual meetings); and, how to conduct virtual meetings in an orderly manner. 
  6. Committee meetings are smaller in size as social distancing and other health-safety measures are observed.
  7. Parliaments present in the meetings agreed that knowledge-sharing on remote working and meeting solutions and practices is needed. The regional hubs will seek to facilitate this via the already existing WhatsApp groups –in a more structured manner.

Zoom

  1. Remote voting is by far the biggest challenge, where technical solutions must ensure security and integrity (that is, auditability) of the voting process. However, voting can be very simple initially (if well regulated): show of colored voting cards (Paraguay example). In the long term more integrity of the voting process is needed.
  2. Lastly there is a growing consensus among the senior IT officials that “we are not going backˮ. Several administrations are studying long-term solutions in rooted in comprehensive digital transformation with the electronic signature and e-document solutions and processes that are key pillars of the digital parliament

[1] Southern Africa regional hub attendees: Parliaments of Zambia (host), Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Ghana, Lesotho, Malawi, South Africa, Zimbabwe, SADC PF Secretariat.

Latin America regional hub attendees: Parliaments of Chile (host), Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, Honduras, Mexico, Spain, Paraguay.

Southern African hubHispanophone hub

Meeting and planning

Southern African hub

The Hub’s Steering Committee, composed of secretaries general and clerks, met at the 141st IPU Assembly in Belgrade. It decided to meet twice a year during the IPU Assemblies. The next meeting will be held in the first quarter of 2020 to approve the work plan. A second meeting will be convened in the fourth quarter to discuss the Hub’s progress and make decisions or approvals as might be required. An ICT strategic planning mission to the National Assembly of Botswana (27-31 January 2020) was supported by the National Assembly of Mauritius, National Assembly of Zambia, and the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA). Preparations for the mission included establishing a methodology for ICT strategic planning which could serve as a blueprint for similar future activity. The Secretariat of the Southern Africa Development Community – Parliamentary Forum (SADC-PF) also requested the Hub to assist with the development of an ICT strategy and (re)design of its website.

Botswana team

Image: The mission team of the Southern Africa Regional Hub represented by the National Assembly of Zambia, and Parliament of Mauritius, visits the Parliament of Botswana to assist the latter in the preparation of its ICT strategic plan. © Michael Mukuka

Southern African hub

Towards an ICT experts database

Southern African hub

The ICT departments of hub parliaments have begun populating an ICT experts database, providing data on available parliamentary experts and relevant technical disciplines. Responding to a request received from the Parliament of Botswana to provide assistance with the review of its ICT Strategic Masterplan, the hub has begun preparations for sending a technical mission, consisting of experts from the Parliaments of Mauritius and Zambia, the UN Economic Commision for Africa, and the IPU. In addition the SADC Parliamentary Forum has requested the hub to provide assistance in the development and implementation of its ICT strategy. At the upcoming IPU Assembly in Belgrade the hub shall convene its steering committee consisting of SGs and Clerks.

Southern African hub

Setting up the Southern African Regional Hub

Southern African hub

At the meeting of ICT Directors of the Southern African Regional Hub in Lusaka from 28 to 29 March, participants drafted key documents such as the hub’s terms of reference, workplan and budget. The National Assembly of Zambia, as host of the Regional Hub, then convened a meeting of Clerks and Secretaries General of participating parliaments at the 140th IPU Assembly in Doha (see photo). During this meeting, the Heads of the parliamentary administration endorsed the overall process and agreed to form a Steering Committee, whose first task was to review and approve the Lusaka documents.

Meanwhile, the hub correspondents have been given the go-ahead to work on the initial activities including the compilation and sharing of ICT policies, project documents, and strategic plans, as well as information on existing services and systems. In addition, a data base of regional ICT experts is being developed. Having also identified ICT Governance as a key issue, collaboration and synergy with the ICT Governance Thematic Hub is being explored.

Michael Mukuka

Image: Mr. Michael Mukuka, coordinator of the Southern African Regional Hub, briefing the participating parliaments during the 140th IPU Assembly, Doha, April 2019. © Parliament of Zambi

Southern African hub

Setting priorities for a Southern African hub

Southern African hub

ICT directors from parliaments in Southern Africa were able to begin discussion on priorities to address within the hub during the 2018 World e-Parliament Conference. Parliaments from the region have started to designate correspondents to participate in the hub. This group met in Lusaka on 28 and 29 March to discuss how they will work together, including Terms of Reference, workplan, and budget, as well as operational modalities, tools and working platforms for the hub. A lively WhatsApp channel is already being used to share information between parliaments on a daily basis.

Participants at the meeting of the hub

Image: Meeting of the Southern African Regional Hub, Lusaka, 27 March 2019.  © permission granted by the National Assembly of Zambia

Southern African hub